NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Impoverished Smokers Choose Tobacco over Food

October 26, 2001

In Bangladesh, despite abject poverty, many men who earn as little as $24 a month spend a portion of their income on tobacco products, forgoing food, clothing and housing for themselves and their families, investigators found.

According to a report by Debra Efroymson of PATH Canada, in the October issue of the journal Tobacco Control:

  • In Dhaka, Bangladesh, an estimated 10.5 million people currently malnourished could have an adequate diet if money spent on tobacco were spent on food instead.
  • Average male cigarette smokers there spend more than twice as much on cigarettes as per capita expenditure on clothing, housing, health and education combined.
  • Furthermore, tobacco use was higher among those with lower incomes; among those with a household income below $24 a month, 58.2 percent of men smoked, compared with 32.3 percent of those whose household incomes were higher than $118 per month.

Overall, rates of smoking in the country are high, and women's smoking rates are much lower than men.

Source: Debra Efroymson, "Hungry for tobacco: an analysis of the economic impact of tobacco consumption on the poor in Bangladesh," Tobacco Control, October 2001; "Poorest spend scarce funds on tobacco, not food," Reuters Health, October 11, 2001.


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